Germany reflects on lessons from deadly floods – live updates | News | DW
- More than 160 people have been killed in western Germany, with many more dead in Europe
- Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government will work to tackle climate change and rebuild
- Interior Minister Horst Seehofer visits affected areas in North Rhine-Westphalia
- A dam failure is still not excluded
- The floods also affected eastern Germany and Austria
This article was last updated at 11:50 UTC
Seehofer pushes back flood criticism
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer criticized the federal government for not doing enough to warn residents of flood-affected areas across the country.
The former Bavarian prime minister said flood warnings were up to local authorities. “It would be totally inconceivable for such a disaster to be managed centrally from one place. You need local knowledge,” he told reporters during a visit to the Steinbach reservoir in the western Germany.
“I have to say some of the things I’m hearing now are cheap election rhetoric,” Seehofer said on the site, where authorities say they no longer fear a dam breach. “This is really not the time for that.”
Flood toll climbs to 165
The death toll for the worst floods in living memory in Germany rose to 165 on Monday, authorities said.
Emergency services continue to search the dozens of people still missing in decimated towns in the west of the country.
A deluge of rain hit western Germany for two days last week, sending torrents of water rushing through the streets, sweeping through trees, cars and sheds and destroying swathes of housing.
German government to approve € 400m flood aid
Senior German government sources told the DPA news agency that the cabinet would approve a € 400 million ($ 470 million) aid package for areas of the country affected by the floods.
Emergency funding and a longer-term reconstruction program are expected to be signed later Wednesday, reports the DPA.
Fears over Cologne dam subside
Authorities in Cologne say the Steinbach dam no longer poses a risk to neighboring towns and villages.
“A dam rupture is no longer to be feared,” the local government said in a statement. Authorities are expected to organize an “orderly return” for residents of Swisttal and Rheinbach, who had been evacuated for security reasons.
Heavy rains had overflowed the top of the dam near the town of Euskirchen.
Greens’ choice warns of more extreme events
Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September elections, told ARD’s Morgenmagazin that climate change would cause more natural disasters like the recent floods.
“These extreme weather events will increase,” she told the German broadcaster.
Baerbock said the floods have highlighted the need to introduce climate protection measures more quickly.
If she becomes chancellor, Baerbock said she would massively develop wind power and other renewables.
Water collects in narrow valleys
At the center of the floods is the Eifel region, a low mountain range that stretches across eastern Belgium and western Germany, bordering the Rhine and Moselle rivers. In Germany, the Eifel is located in the two federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
The region is home to generally gentle and picturesque rivers that flow through the towns. These are the rivers that overflow, inundating and devastating entire villages.
Heavy rains in such mountainous terrain are particularly dangerous as water collects in valleys instead of spreading evenly over other surfaces. This is what happened in the Ahr region, a particularly narrow valley, where a sudden rise in water levels would leave the inhabitants little chance of escaping the flood.
The small affected municipalities of the Eifel mainly benefit from the tourist economic activity, which had significantly slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The floods risk being a terrible setback for the region.
The mayor of Altenahr fears for the supply of drinking water.
The mayor of Altenahr, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, fears that the supply of drinking water will be limited for a long time after the devastating floods.
“It looks like the infrastructure has been so damaged that there may not be drinking water in some places for weeks or even months,” Cornelia Weigand told the Bild newspaper.
Weigand, who is an independent, said an emergency water supply would be needed until repairs are completed.
She also asked if all residents would return once the water went down. “Who is going to retreat where a century flood is going to be exceeded by a factor of three?”
Germany’s flood toll continues to grow
The number of people who died in the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate as a result of the floods rose to 117, Koblenz police said on Monday.
Authorities had reported the day before that 112 people had lost their lives, with nearly 750 people injured.
Floods are a “wake-up call” to the climate, says CSU’s Söder
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder said Germany must step up its fight against climate change.
The head of the Christian Social Union, the CDU sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, addressed the broadcaster ARD.
“After all, it was a wake-up call,” he said.
Söder said he would present new legislation to tackle the problem, which was already expected before the recent flooding.
Some areas of Bavaria have also been affected by high water levels, especially in the Berchtesgaden region near the border with Austria.
Dozens of people were evacuated from their homes there.
Civil protection chief rejects criticism of warning systems
The head of the German Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, Armin Schuster, dismissed criticism that more needs to be done to improve the country’s warning system for extreme weather conditions .
“The warning infrastructure has not been our problem, but how the authorities and the population react sensitively to these warnings,” Schuster told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday.
He said the organization, known by its German acronym BBK, issued 150 such warnings between Wednesday and Saturday.
Floods are the result of climate “procrastination”
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, Social Democratic MP (SPD), said the recent floods are “the consequences of procrastination and hesitation” in the fight against climate change.
She promised that if the SPD wins the September election, the center-left party will adopt tougher policies to help cut emissions.
Schulze highlighted the expansion of renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power plants, adding that a stricter speed limit on the German motorway network was also needed.
“This immediately leads to a reduction in CO2 emissions and costs us nothing,” she said in an interview with RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
Minister of State denies “fundamental problems”
North Rhine-Westphalia Home Secretary Herbert Reul, a CDU lawmaker, said the state needs to improve its response to major disasters, but rejected claims that its approach was fundamentally flawed.
“Anything that could have worked 100% did not work. Because there would have been no deaths,” Reul told the Bild newspaper.
But he added that the state’s disaster response policy had “no major fundamental issues,” while admitting that there was “probably still work to be done” to coordinate relief efforts.
Aerial view of the flood
The before and after images of the Ahr Valley show just how much water was carried by the small river, spilling out throughout the city and the dramatic devastation that followed.
Before and after shots show extent of flooding in Altenburg in Altenahr
For more before and after photos, click here.
The disaster is not over yet, warns Laschet of the CDU
Armin Laschet, the Christian Democrat candidate for this year’s parliamentary elections, warned that reconstruction after the flood damage “will take months, if not years”.
The Prime Minister of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia said that “the disaster is not over yet” because thousands of houses in the region affected by the floods are without electricity or running water.
He added that all levels of government were moving “as quickly as possible” to provide aid to victims of extreme weather conditions.
Police contact 700 missing people
Cologne police said in a statement on Sunday that they had managed to reach 700 missing people. There are only 150 people they have not yet been able to reach in the areas around Cologne and Bonn.
The weather agency defends itself
A spokesman for the German Weather Service (DWD) defended its role, saying the agency had “done what it was supposed to do”.
The DWD warned local authorities of the expected weather conditions, but often these messages were not transmitted, the spokesperson told German television station ZDF.
In Germany, it is the local districts that decide on the relevant measures, not the DWD.